I hope everyone had a great week and valentines day. I was a lucky recipient of the above beautiful orchid and for that I’m thankful- its the small things that matter as they say. On to the matter at hand, I would like to pontificate about an issue raised in an article appearing in the latest copy of The Economist (Feb. 16th-22nd 2013), but first I should say I’m not a fan of The Economist, the quality of articles appearing in there are not what one would think of a respectable magazine. However, this article titled “Africa’s booming economy needs modern trade routes” is quite apt. The thesis of the article is that Africa lacks a reliable transport network which makes it impossible to trade. First there is not much connecting the north and the south other than taking a ferry along the Aswan to get from Egypt to Sudan and even after you get through the Sahara, for the rest of the continent there are no railroads to connect the vast continent and the road network is pathetic.
According to a World Bank report “Africa can help feed Africa” if farmers were able to get produce across borders. This is a continent wide assessment of transportation but I would like to get to country level and in this case the Kenyan situation which none of the presidential contestants is talking about in the ongoing campaigns. One of our major problems is that farmers cannot get their produce to markets in a timely fashion if at all. Produce goes bad at home and if it gets to the market its can no longer compete with fresher produce. In this case, I think of my rural home where farmers rely on milk production to a large extent but of course, you can produce all the milk you want but if you do not have a means of getting it to the market because the roads are deplorable then the farmer’s hard work is an effort in futility. If Kenya had a good road and rail network we would not have the famine and starvation that recurs every year.
My challenge to the so called presidential contestants: why should we be discussing vision 2030 (with unrealistic goals such as getting subway systems in Nairobi) if we have not found a sustainable means of ensuring that famine ends? I am extremely disappointed that the presidential candidates are not addressing this critical matter of ending starvation/famine by improving our road and rail networks, a means of building a food reserve for the country and including an elaborate plan of ensuring farmers can improve food production e.g. increased mechanization, subsidies for seeds and fertilizer e.t.c. In my mind, this is the foundation of improving citizens lives especially in rural areas and consequently improving our economy because by and large we still are an agriculture dependent economy.
This article in The Economist raised issues that are pertinent to Africa’s growth and “development” if you will, but more so, matters that Kenya particularly has to address. Otherwise, how long shall hunger and famine plague us? I would love to hear your thoughts on this.